It's Been 4 Months Since JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan Were Last Seen. Here's What We Know
It's been four months since 7-year-old Joshua "JJ" Vallow and 17-year-old Tylee Ryan were last seen in Rexburg, Idaho, and police are still searching for the siblings, whom they believe are in serious danger.
Investigators are "still following up on tips and leads," Rexburg Police Department Assistant Chief Gary Hagen told InsideEdition.com.
The investigation into the children's disappearance involves three suspicious deaths and questions about their mother and her new husband's "cult-like" religious beliefs, according to the children's grandparents, Kay and Larry Woodcock. The FBI is involved in the case, but after four months, Larry Woodcock said there have been no updates on the siblings' whereabouts.
"We're letting the authorities do what they do. The FBI has simply told us there are things that they know but that they simply cannot divulge that information at this time," Larry Woodcock told InsideEdition.com. "We accept that, we understand that they have got a job to do even though it's not the positive news we want to hear, it lets me know that they are working hard."
"We know there are good things happening," he added. "Every morning and every night and every day, I say my prayer for there to be a positive ending to this. These kids are two good kids and they don't deserve this, and I can't believe and I won't believe that somebody would hurt these kids. I pray not."
Here's what we know about JJ and Tylee's disappearance, and what you can do to help.
When were the siblings last seen?
JJ and Tylee were last seen on September 23 in Rexburg, Idaho. Their mother, Lori Vallow Daybell, went to JJ's elementary school the next day and unenrolled him, explaining she planned to homeschool JJ, Kennedy Elementary School Principal Josh Wilson told EastIdahoNews.com. JJ had only been enrolled at the school three weeks before, on Sept. 3, Wilson said.
Once he was unenrolled, he was no longer tracked by the school, because "Idaho does not regulate or monitor home school education," according to the state's Department of Education.
Lori Vallow Daybell never reported the children missing, according to police. Authorities performed a welfare check on the family's home on Nov. 26 after being contacted by other family members. The Rexburg Police Department announced their search for JJ and Tylee on Dec. 20, the day after Chad and Lori Daybell were named persons of interest in their disappearance. Neither have been arrested or charged with a crime.
Grandparents Kay and Larry Woodcock said they last spoke to JJ in August. While he used to speak with his grandparents all the time, the last time they FaceTimed with JJ, Kay Woodcock said it seemed like someone else was holding the device and the call lasted less than a minute. The couple never heard from JJ again.
“We don’t know why we weren’t allowed more access to him, but we reached out constantly in every way – email, voicemail, text, phone call, whatever – and never, ever got a response, so that was very concerning to us," Kay Woodcock said during a Jan. 7 press conference.
JJ has brown hair and brown eyes, is 4 feet tall and weighs 50 pounds. He has autism and "may be in need of medical attention," according to authorities.
Tylee Ryan has blonde hair and blue eyes, is 5 feet tall and weighs 160 pounds.
The #FBI is assisting @RexburgPolice and the Fremont County SO locate Joshua Vallow and Tylee Ryan, last seen Sept 23rd in Rexburg. Call Rexburg PD at (208) 359-3000 or @MissingKids at 1-800-THE-LOST w/info. pic.twitter.com/rl7brWLowx— FBI Salt Lake City (@FBISaltLakeCity) December 20, 2019
Where is the children's mother?
Authorities believe that the children's mother, Lori, and her fifth husband, Chad Daybell, "abruptly vacated their residence and left Rexburg" after police returned to their home to ask questions about the missing children following the Nov. 26 welfare check.
Since then, "Lori Vallow/Daybell, the adopted mother of Joshua and the biological mother of Tylee, has completely refused to assist this investigation," Rexburg Police Chief Shane Turman wrote in a statement Dec. 30, adding that "we also have information indicating that Lori knows either the location of the children or what happened to them."
"Despite having this knowledge, she has refused to work with law enforcement to help us locate her own children. Lori Vallow has chosen instead to leave the state with her new husband," Turman wrote.
Since then, authorities in Idaho said they have been contacted by Chad Daybell's attorney.
"We have been contacted by [Chad Daybell's] attorney, and that was a couple of weeks ago," Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries told EastIdahoNews.com. "His attorney was letting us know that any communications would be through him, and there wasn't any at the time."
An attorney for the couple, Sean Bartholick, issued a statement on behalf of the couple on Dec. 23. Bartholick has not responded to multiple requests for comment from InsideEdition.com.
“Chad Daybell was a loving husband and has the support of his children in this matter. Lori Daybell is a devoted mother and resents assertions to the contrary. We look forward to addressing the allegations once they have moved beyond speculation and rumor," Bartholick wrote in the statement. Bartholick also reportedly said that he does not have any information about the missing children.
Chad and Lori Daybell married in 2019 just a few weeks after the death of Chad's wife, Tammy.
On Oct. 19, Tammy Daybell, 49, was found dead in her home, police said. Her death was initially believed to be from natural causes. A later investigation "determined that [Tammy] Daybell's death may be suspicious," according to police. Her body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed, the results of which are still pending.
On Jan. 3, investigators seized 43 items from Chad Daybell's home, including computers, cell phones, journals, documents and medications, EastIdahoNews.com reported.
Where are the children's fathers?
Both of the children's fathers are dead. JJ Vallow's adoptive father, Charles Vallow, was shot and killed by Lori's brother on July 11, 2019, in Chandler, Arizona, at the home where JJ and Tylee were living with their mother, Lori. Charles Vallow had come to pick up JJ.
Alex Cox, Lori's brother, told police he acted in self-defense when he shot Vallow, according to body cam footage released by the Chandler Police Department. Cox also claimed Vallow came at him with a baseball bat after fighting with Lori and that Tylee had tried to defend her mother with a bat, according to the footage.
Cox was not charged in the incident, and died himself on Dec. 12. Both Cox and Charles Vallows' deaths are now under investigation.
Tylee's father and Lori's third husband, Joseph Ryan, died in 2018 from an apparent heart attack.
What have other family members said about the case?
JJ is the couple's biological grandson whom Charles, Kay's brother, and Lori Vallow adopted from the Woodcocks when he was a baby.
"They each had two children by previous marriages, and they wanted a baby to raise. Kay and I, after months of deliberation, said it was probably best because Charles was a high earner, a hard worker and devout in his religion, him and Lori both," Larry Woodcock explained of the adoption. "They were just good people, tremendous people. I was proud to have Charles and Lori, at that time, as a brother-in-law and sister-in-law."
Lori's current unwillingness to help find JJ and Tylee puzzles and angers the rest of the family.
"I can't comprehend that Lori is refusing to say where the kids are, I just don't understand it," Kay Woodcock said during the Jan. 7 press conference. "I just plead with her to please just let us know where the kids are. It's not difficult, and it will end all of this."
Lori's son, Colby Ryan, has also posted videos to his YouTube channel pleading with his mother to tell police where JJ and Tylee are.
"You have the power to end this," Ryan said in the video, addressing his mother. "You have an opportunity to put this all to rest. I know that it's hard maybe for you, maybe it's something you don't want to do. I really, really want to see Tylee and JJ. I really want this to be over."
Chad Daybell's brother, Matt, issued a statement to EastIdahoNews.com earlier this month urging Chad to tell the authorities where the children are.
"I have not been close to Chad since childhood. My immediate family has had little association with Chad the last many years due to our concerns with his religious claims and particular books he had chosen to publish, including his own," Matt Daybell wrote in the statement.
"We are deeply saddened at the recent events that have played out the last several months. It is our hope and prayer that JJ and Tylee are safe. We want for the truth to be found – whatever that truth turns out to be. Neither I, nor my wife and children have any more information than what has been reported by the news media. I plead again for Chad to come forward and cooperate with the investigation so that this very difficult situation might be resolved," Matt Daybell added.
Do Lori and Chad Daybell's religious beliefs play a role in the case?
In a Facebook post, Kay Vallow Woodcock wrote Lori was a "wonderful, loving, attentive mother" until "things started changing over the past 18+ months when Lori began spending all her time with a new religious group."
Larry Woodcock agreed, explaining that Charles and Lori Vallow were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But then Lori began to change.
"The first six years, you couldn't ask for a better mother than Lori," Larry Woodcock said. "I can't tell you a date she got involved in this cult, but I told Kay two or three years ago I thought Lori was changing. There was something about her that was not the Lori we loved."
Lori started "to read some books published by [Chad] Daybell and listen to other podcasts and things like that," Larry Woodock said. "But up until that point, Lori was the quintessential mom: extremely athletic, loving, caring. You could not ask for a better mom. And then it all just went to hell in a hand basket, and Lori changed."
In divorce papers, Charles Vallow claimed Lori had told him she was "a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ's second coming in July 2020," The Arizona Republic reported.
Lori had "become infatuated and, at times, obsessive about near-death experiences and spiritual visions," Charles Vallow said in court documents cited by the paper.
Chad Daybell has published books about his faith and near-death experiences, as well as fictional stories set in an apocalyptic United States. In the description for another book of "true graveyard stories," Chad wrote he once served as a cemetery sexton.
How can the public help find JJ and Tylee?
The Rexburg Police Department asks anyone with information regarding the children's whereabouts or welfare to contact the department at 1-208-359-3000 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-THE-LOST.
Larry and Kay Woodcock have also launched a website, FindJJandTylee.com, to help collect leads. Larry Woodcock said the couple has received hundreds of tips, some of them serious and some of them not, and have passed all of them along to the authorities. The couple is in touch with investigators multiple times per week, Larry Woodcock said.
"We're not going to take a chance. We're going to pass every one on to the authorities, because we know the FBI has a big team working on this," Larry Woodcock said.
He also said that knowing friends, family and strangers are out there looking for the children helps he and Kay cope.
"We appreciate every call and offer of help and prayer, and people just asking what they can do. That means a lot, it really does," Larry Woodcock said. "All we want is those children back, among their family to be loved by their family."
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